Police have intervened as protesters interrupted a drag performer’s storytime session at Auckland’s Avondale Library.
Auckland Council head of Community delivery, North and West, Darryl Soljan said while the children were not disturbed, and the storyteller was safely escorted from the library, the incident was “distressing” for its team.
“We have chosen to remain closed for the rest of the day.”
The event was part of Pride Fest Out West, and involved dancing, songs, and stories told by a drag performer.
In a video, viewed by the Herald, police are seen confronting the small group of protesters who claim they are asking “them [referring to drag performers] not to groom children”.
A police officer then said he had the authority to trespass the protesters as they had been asked to leave, and threatened to arrest one man.
The damaging false claim that drag performers doing the story times are “groomers” has been increasingly used in the US by opponents of drag, as well as the LGBTQ+ community to, what NBC describes as, “falsely equate it with paedophilia or other forms of child abuse”.
Soljan told the Herald the council’s libraries are vibrant community spaces, where everyone is welcome, without judgment or prejudice.
“These fun and child-friendly events focus on the magic of storytelling, with readers and performers who are members of our community too.
“Those who do not wish to partake in Drag Storytime are welcome to use our other libraries, or perhaps visit at another time of day.”
Shaneel Lal, an activist, Herald columnist and co-founder of the Conversion Therapy Action Group, said it was interesting how many people were concerned about drag queens reading books in public.
“If you don’t want your kids to be at the event, don’t send them, no one’s going to force them to be there,” they told the Herald.
Lal said if parents are allowing their kids to be there, others should just “get over it”.
They said even before a scheduled Drag Storytime at Gloria, a pink converted church in Greymouth, the building was vandalised with antisemitic messages and a pride flag was burnt.
“If people are willing to burn flags, you wonder if they are emboldened what they will do.”
A spokesperson said police were aware of protest activity planned at a community centre in Avondale this morning and monitored accordingly.
“Police recognise the lawful right to protest, however were in attendance and stepped in when required to minimise disruption to the wider public.”
They said three people were spoken to by police and were asked to move on.